SUNRISE, Fla. - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama plunked down $4 million for a campaign-closing television ad last night, summoning voters to "choose hope over fear and unity over division" in Tuesday's election.
His Republican rival, John McCain, derided the event as a "gauzy, feel-good commercial," paid for with broken promises.
"America, the time for change has come," Obama declared in the final moments of the prime-time ad, a blend of videotaped moments and a live appearance before thousands at a rally in Sunrise, Fla.
"In six days we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates jobs and fuels prosperity, starting with the middle class," Obama said.
The 30-minute ad, shown on CBS, NBC, Fox and several cable networks, came days from the end of a race in which Obama holds the lead in polls nationally and in most battleground states as he bids to become the first black president.
Although Obama made no mention of McCain in his ad, both men sharpened their rhetoric during the day.
McCain, also in Florida, argued that Obama lacked "what it takes to protect America from terrorists."
During a daytime campaign stop, McCain also said: "He's got a few things he wants to sell you: He's offering government-run health care . . . an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling . . . and an automatic wealth spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed."
McCain followed Obama's commercial with a taped appearance on CNN's Larry King Live.
In it, he said he had total confidence in his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, should she have to handle a crisis such as an attack on the United States.
Palin gave an interview of her own to ABC News, saying she intended to remain a national figure even if the Republican ticket loses next week. "I'm not doing this for naught," she said.
'Promise you this ...'
Obama's commercial not only marked an effort to seal his case with the electorate, but also underscored his enormous financial advantage in the race.
He has outraised McCain by far after first committing to, and then reneging on, a pledge to limit spending to the $84 million available under federal matching funds.
Obama used his commercial to pledge a rescue plan for the middle class in tough times.
"I will not be a perfect president," he said. "But I can promise you this - I will always tell you what I think and where I stand."
The ad blended prerecorded views of Obama speaking in a setting that resembled the Oval Office, at the Democratic National Convention and elsewhere with scenes of Americans discussing their economic and health-care troubles, and testimonials to Obama by fellow Democratic lawmakers, by business executives, and by a retired brigadier general.
His wife, Michelle, and their two daughters had cameos, and there were photos of his black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas.
The program ended with the two-minute live segment from Obama's rally in Florida, one of several states where the Democrat is trying to capture traditionally Republican territory.
Later last night in Kissimmee, Fla., Obama was joined by former President Bill Clinton, who earlier yesterday campaigned on Obama's behalf in Pennsylvania, including in Harrisburg and at Pennsylvania State University in State College.
The Republican National Committee unveiled an ad yesterday that seeks to raise doubts about Obama's lack of executive experience. The ad will begin airing today in Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and Florida markets.
"Would you go under with a surgeon who has never operated?" an announcer says. "Can you hand your nation to a man who has never been in charge of anything? Can you wait while he learns?"
Earlier yesterday, in Tampa, McCain stood with former military officers and national security advisers to ask rhetorically whether Obama had the wisdom and judgment to be commander in chief.
"The question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the other great threats in the world," McCain said. "He has given no reason to answer in the affirmative."
In recent weeks, McCain slumped in the polls as the economic crisis unfolded. Yesterday, he said the nation would emerge from the financial meltdown even stronger.
"When that day arrives and the worries of economic crisis have fallen away, we will find awaiting our country all of the same great challenges and dangers that were there all along," he said.
Also yesterday, McCain and Palin raised questions about Obama's connections to a Palestinian American scholar, Rashid Khalidi, and criticized the Los Angeles Times for declining to release a video it obtained of Obama attending a 2003 going-away party in Chicago for Khalidi.
The U.S.-born Khalidi, a former University of Chicago professor who is now at Columbia University, is a Palestinian-rights advocate and critic of Israel.
McCain link, too?
Obama aides accused McCain of hypocrisy, noting that McCain himself has a tie to Khalidi through a group Khalidi helped found 15 years ago. That group, the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, received at least $448,000 from the International Republican Institute, an organization that McCain has long chaired.
Obama did not address the controversy directly during a midday rally in North Carolina.
But he told voters that by week's end, McCain will "be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten."
At the 2003 party, which the Los Angeles Times wrote about in April, Obama praised Khalidi and vice versa. But Khalidi also told the Times in that article that he disagreed with Obama's pro-Israel views.
The Times said it did not publish the video because a confidential source had provided it on the condition that the newspaper not release it. "The Times keeps its promises to sources," Times editor Russ Stanton said.
McCain said on Radio Mambi, a Spanish-language station in Miami: "What if there was a tape with John McCain in a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet? I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different." Palin said the Times should win a Pulitzer Prize for "kowtowing."
Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor accused McCain of using a "recycled, manufactured controversy" to distract voters. Obama, he said, "does not share Khalidi's views" and has been "clear and consistent on his support for Israel."
Today, Obama is scheduled to hold rallies in Sarasota, Fla.; Virginia Beach, Va., and Columbia, Mo. McCain is to hold several campaign events around Ohio.
The vice presidential nominees both return today to Pennsylvania. Palin will be in Erie this afternoon, and she and Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr. have separate campaign appearances in Williamsport later in the day.
Biden will then travel to Allentown for an evening rally. Palin will hold events tomorrow in Latrobe and York.